The Town of Paonia is urging town water users to collect potable water after several water main breaks occurred over the weekend, resulting in brief disruptions in service.
The town's infrastructure has experienced at least 80 breaks this year, according to town manager Jane Berry. Six of those breaks have occurred within town limits, including one on Monday in the 200 block of Main Avenue. While no one has gone more than a few hours without water, this is a case of water being more precious than gold, said Berry.
The town has issued several "Code Red" warnings on its website and Facebook page in recent weeks due to breaks, and the public works crew has worked almost around the clock in an effort to keep up with the problem. The last weekend was especially stressful, said Berry.
The majority of breaks are occurring in the Roeber, Foothills, Minerich and Lamborn Mesa road areas. Those breaks have largely affected out-of-town and private water company customers. An Oct. 21 break on Lamborn Mesa Road prompted a Code Red warning by the town, urging Lamborn Mesa customers to collect water in the event of an extended water loss.
Several factors are contributing to the breaks, said Berry. The entire system is suffering from years of benign neglect and the town has not had the money to reinvested in infrastructure. A couple of the main lines are upwards of 70-80 years old and made of ductile iron that has corroded over the decades. It's brittle, and when welded, the welds don't hold up. "Think cast iron," said Berry.
Projects related to the $6 million filtration system upgrades mandated by the state are still underway, and problems with the 1 million-gallon Lower Lamborn Mesa (Clock) Treatment Plant have kept it out of service since last spring. In the meantime, the entire delivery system is relying on the 2 million-gallon Upper Lamborn Mesa plant. While repairs at the Clock plant are going well, it isn't expected to be back online until December.
That has placed added pressure on the system, said Berry. Every time a break occurs the water is turned off to allow for repairs. When the system is recharged, the pressure can cause more breaks.
While an entire system upgrade would run into the millions of dollars and isn't feasible at this time, the town is considering numerous major water main replacement projects in 2016 and is looking to loop some of the existing dead-end sections to relieve pressure on those lines to maintain service.
But the fact is that future breaks are likely, said Berry. In the meantime, the town is urging water customers to be resourceful, and be prepared.